Wednesday, January 11, 2012

This is about one tenth of my pantry ingredients, and most of the items pictured are not even from the list I just posted.
I've been under the weather for the last few days so have fallen behind. The following post is about what I use in the pantry regularly for my new year eats and the fresh ingredients I stock up on at the beginning of the week.  

Important pantry items

High end balsamic vinegar - you should be able to use it straight out of the bottle into the salad, no mixing. My favorite for the price is from William Sonoma, $40 for 459ml.
Cheap balsamic vinegar – this is for cooking and making bulk salad dressing
Grapeseed oil
Olive oil
Assorted dried herbs
Chili flakes
Chili powder
Dijon mustard
Assorted dried beans
Assorted canned beans (for quick or unplanned meals)
Pepper (whole, ground through peppermill at will in an ideal world)
Tomato sauce

Fresh Ingredients to have on hand regularly (I will have in brackets what I usually go through in a week)
Beets (4)
Onions (5 or 6)
Carrots (2lbs)
Celery root (1)
Fresh fennel (1)
Lettuce (2)
Kale (1)
Savoy cabbage (1)
Red, orange and/or yellow peppers
Spinach(I buy bagged prewashed spinach because I hate washing spinach. I will often wash it again because I also hate gritty spinach. At the same time, I love spinach, and we go through 2 large bags a week, sometimes more when I cook it down)

The fresh ingredients are what I use regularly for salads, soups, tomato sauce and any braised dish. My base for tomato sauce and soup (minus the tomatoes) is a blend of sautéed onions, fennel, carrots, celery root and garlic.
My daily, workhorse salad is mixed greens (often including spinach) generously laden with grated carrot, grated beets, finely sliced fennel, sliced cabbage, diced peppers, chopped tomato and anything else kickin’ around that might taste good. Items like peppers and tomatoes are subject to price and if they look like they might taste good. This time of year they are often with-held from the salad.
This is a basic list. My pantry is actually embarrassingly overstocked. But the above list are the things that come to mind on a daily basis, many if not most you likely already have (I will understand if you don’t have the crazy expensive balsamic – it is a decadent item. Don’t invest in it unless you are feeling flush. Most of the recipes I’m going to have here will use the less expensive –read cheap – vinegar).
Let me know what you find indispensable in your pantry!

Work horse salad dressing
1/3 ratio of cheap balsamic to 1/3 grapeseed oil, to 1/3 olive oil (all olive oil sometimes makes the dressing to heavy tasting)
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
generous pinch or two of dried herbs - lately I've been using and Italian mix
salt and pepper
minced or grated clove of garlic

Put into a bottle, shake furiously, let sit for a little while for flavours to meld and soften - use. I fill up my recycled bottle to the top and it lasts a week, give or take a day. 

Here is a snapshot of the dressing with a glimpse of my kitchen for those who haven't been here.

Next post will be about cooking beans in advance so you are always ready to dramatically toss them into anything you are preparing. Oh yes, and how to make them taste good. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

This is G's breakfast, the more modest portion, without the bacon
This is my more manly sized breakfast, with the bacon chopped and added into the somewhat soupy mess. A very tasty mess I might add.


Throw a generous handful of cooked beans (today I used the last of my zuni beans) into a fry pan with a little olive oil on medium. Toss in a little broth if you have any, or a little bit of the soup from yesterday with a few chunks of vegetables, one minced, grated or pressed clove of garlic. Get hot, toss in 3 to 5 handfuls of spinach. Meanwhile, lightly oil and heat a non-stick fry pan on med-low. Slow cook an egg, (we like easy over). When spinach is wilted, turn mixture onto a plate, top with egg and eat. I added one strip of chopped garlic to my dish, while G had his on the side (not seen in photo). 

This is the finished soup from last night, not the best photo...

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Raw ingredients (except the zuni beans and andouille sausage)

The heritage zuni beans are the ones in the front that are yellowish. The little black numbers are Beluga Lentils, and I cannot remember the name of the piebald ones on the left.
I thought I had better include a soup recipe since I put a soup picture up on facebook. This is what we had for dinner tonight - it is kind of the basic soup which I play around with. The soup pictured on face book was similar to this Winter Soup except instead of andouille sausage I put in leftover ham, instead of chicken I added halibut and prawns. Pretty much the rest of the ingredients were the same. In the case of making it a fish soup, I don't add the fish to the pot, rather, once the soup has cooked, I brown the halibut on both sides, then finish it in the oven. Meanwhile, while the halibut is cooking in the oven I quickly saute the prawns. These two ingredients get put in the soup bowls, then ladle the soup around and over the fish. Voila. The remaining soup can be eaten as is for lunches, or another dinner.

Winter Soup
This recipe is made with a stock I’ve made from roasting two whole chickens for a previous meal. There is a ton of leftover meat, which I also use in the soup, left in as large of pieces as possible. The resulting soup has a super-chunk, hearty look to it. I used a heritage zuni bean that cooked up to a buttery soft bean that really soaked up the flavour of garlic and bay leaf that I always add to the cooking water.

1 onion, diced small
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
1/3 of a large celery root, peeled and diced small
¼ head of fennel, sliced
2 heads garlic, minced
5 sticks green curly kale, stemmed and chopped
¼ head savoy cabbage, sliced
6 inches of andouille sausage, sliced
5 litres chicken stock
Couple of cups chunk-ish pieces of cooked chicken
3 cups cooked white navy beans, or any bean of your choice
garnish with fresh, chopped parley (optional)

Hot Pot:
Throw diced onions, carrots, celery root, fennel, garlic, kale, sausage, stock, chicken and beans into the cooker. Cook on high. Walk away for 3 hours…ka-pow, done, garnish and eat!

The more refined, traditional Soup Pot Method:
Saute the onions and garlic until softened. Add carrots, celery root, fennel, garlic, kale and sausage, stir occasionally, cooking until the vegetables wilt. Add chicken stock, beans and chicken, bring to a simmer. Lower heat and cook for about an hour and a half or until the vegetables are tender. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

For us (as in two adults), this is our dinner. If you feel weird just eating soup, make a salad too. I always put bread, butter, cheese and other snacky things for the kids. Better to avoid those if you can. 
This makes a huge pot of soup of which we use for lunches and after school snacks for the next few days.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Soup that fulfills the criteria, even though halibut is white

The 4-Hour Body – A New Year inspiration for friends and fellow bloggers

Last summer (2010) my mate read the 4-Hour Body:  an uncommon guide to rapid fat-loss, incredible sex and becoming super human. He wanted me to help him eat his way to weight loss. I was keen, as I was getting a little chunky myself and it sounded like a fun way to give myself a cooking challenge…you know, set up some perimeters, like iron chef or something.
As he described Timothy Ferriss’s food plan I thought …hmm, sounds a lot like how I like to cook and eat anyway. But, there is no pasta in this plan, no bread (what kind of underground baker am I?), no…and this is pure blasphemy in my books, NO CAFÉ LAIT.
But! There is red wine and cream is allowed in my coffee, so after the initial shock of becoming lait-less, we began the new eating program in the fall. Oh yea, there is also one free day a week were you are supposed to eat whatever you want – yes ,WHATEVER you want! I love this. So pick a day, and on those days that you think you will die without chocolate, or a croissant, or a lait, write it down on a notepad on the fridge. Then on your chosen day, be ready to eat all of it. You will likely find that like us, we eventually chilled on the list, only needing to eat one or two things rather than the works. But it doesn’t seem to matter, eat what you will on your free day, and be sure there is some fat in it. This focused weekly fat consumption prevents your body from going into panic and deciding it has to steal energy from your muscles to make fat because you have taken away most fat sources during the rest of the week.
No surprise to Ferriss, results were pretty darn fast. And that is why I am posting about it. Many friends are interested in eating this way, but not confident omitting certain things from their usual fare while increasing beans/legumes.
What you are trying to do is avoid foods that can be converted into sugar and thereby fat. And hey, I am no scientist, dietician or doctor – this is just how I understand Ferriss’s ideas. But if you look at a food, think about how your body is going to convert it. Is it high in sugar? Can it be converted into sugar easily? Is it high fat? If you say yes to these things then avoid it. Of course there are exceptions. If it is fatty but very nutritious, such as an avocado, then you can eat it. In fact, Ferriss recommends eating one avocado a day. I essentially eat most vegetables unless they are super starchy, like a potato.
The general rule is no white food (including soy beans and products, but cauliflower is fine), no processed food (no chips, no pop), no sweets (no exceptions, no honey, no maple syrup),  no dairy other than cream in coffee (no milk) and perhaps a little butter in cooking, no fruit. Avoid all wheat, flours of any sort, grains (no rice), all starches in any form (quinoa is a starch, even though it is high in protein). You will be eating a lot of vegetables (a salad at every meal is ideal), a normal to slight increase in protein (depending on what your consumption is already), and increase (but not huge) of legume consumption. Also, you will be eating three meals a day, so get ready those of you who don’t eat in the morning (that would be me).

Menu Planning
A few notes on how I menu plan. I usually pick one day as a soup day, which usually follows a roast chicken day (so I can use the bones to make stock). The roast chicken meal usually consists of two chickens for our family of four, so I can use the leftover chicken in lunches, the soup and if there is still some left, into another meal. To start this menu, you might want to map out your week like this.

Breakfast suggestions: (these don’t need to be big portions, one egg is fine, some days I can’t handle an egg so I just toss together spinach with other vegetables and some white beans that have been dressed with a vinaigrette – more on that later)
  • Easy over egg, turkey sausage, white beans and sautéed spinach
  • Sautéed kale with crumbled chorizo sausage, green lentils and a poached egg (this tastes fantastic!)
  • Sauteed red pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, green onions served with a scrambled egg, or used to make an omelette
  • Refried beans, little ham, sunnyside egg, garnished with salsa, hot sauce and advocado
  • A vegie bean medley for one or two mornings

Remember, you only need to be prepped for six days.

I make lunches with dinner leftovers, always serving the main meat over a tossed salad that includes legumes. That’s it – just cook extra dinners, and have good, sturdy containers for transporting food. We like the glass containers with a four sided snapping closure system. Haven’t had a leak yet, and the glass is nice to heat up in a microwave and eat out of.

  • Sunday – roast chicken, mashed yams, broccoli and a big salad.
  • Monday – hearty chicken soup with Andouille sausage, white beans and cabbage.
  • Tuesday – taco salad, made with a chili made up of ground beef, onions, garlic, chili powder and paste, chilies (chipotle is nice), pinch cinnamon, little chunk of bittersweet chocolate,  tomato sauce (homemade ideally, more on this later). For the kids I always have soft shell tacos that I steam up in the microwave. Sometimes G and I cheat and eat them too as I haven’t figured out if they are totally taboo yet.
  • Wednesday – halibut, green beans, salad with legumes tossed in.  For the kids I might cook up some noodles here, Asian style, to have with the fish as they are pretty much done for the week without their pasta fix!
  • Thursday – this morning I will have had vegies without eggs…then I can make a frittata for dinner with spinach, asparagus, onions and garlic and a salad on the side. I will have made a separate one for the kids with cheese in it.
  • Friday – One more day to go till its “eat everything day”. A hearty seafood soup with mussels, halibut, salmon, clams and prawns, with onions, garlic, carrot julienne, finely sliced red pepper, finely sliced fennel, a shy cup of tomato sauce, and chicken stock. For the kids you can cook up some noodles to serve the soup over.

Tomorrow I will post some “how to prepare” bean recipes so that you can keep prepped, ready to use legumes on hand in the fridge. This makes breakfasts and salads super easy to prepare. I will also post our workhorse salad and salad dressing recipe. I make about ml of dressing a week in advance so that it is always ready at dinner.